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DISCOVER THE SOUL OF CASSADAGA
By Chris McBeath

For some, the drive to Cassadaga Camp might be a bit off the wall, but any community that has a shopping mall for Spiritualists, a Medium Mart and an actively used Meditation Garden as its 'town square' is a voyage of discovery in more ways than one.

George P. Colby, an accomplished trance-medium in the late 1800s, first envisioned the Spiritualist community during a sťance. With the guidance of his Indian guide, Seneca, he was taken through the pathless wilds of Central Florida to an area that was exactly as it had been shown him during that spiritual session. Established in 1894, Cassadaga is named after a small town outside of Lily Dale, a Spiritualist community near New York, and is a Seneca Indian word meaning, rocks beneath the water.

In the early days, it was a warm weather winter haven for Spiritualists and most of the district's first residents were well-educated and financially affluent. Many of the cottages date to the 1920s, and today they exude an old-world charm and easy grace that see roses scrambling over rooftops, paint peeling from porches, and verandahs filled with new age-style paraphernalia.

Cassadaga is, however, far from New Age; it is the oldest active religious community in the south eastern United States. Church members occupy fifty-seven acres of land that is collectively owned, and with more than 50 mediums, psychics, readers and healers in its midst, this unusual society provides destination comfort to the bereaved, counseling to the curious, and wisdom to paranormal enthusiasts.

Although Cassadaga is one of those quaint little Central Florida towns that you might just drive through on the way to somewhere else, with hardly a glance, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, it provides a step back in time where life certainly walks to a different drummer. Some even suggest a different dimension made all the more moviesque when you see glossy, well fed cats prowling through the uncut grass, their green eyes alert on things unseen. A surprise swarm of butterflies dancing through the wild flowers and crystal-refracted rainbows flashing heavenly colours onto unexpected surfaces.

If you're a Seeker, though, finding Cassadaga is like coming home to an entire community of like-minded souls. Here can you take an Orb Photography Tour on invisible energy spots and see photographic results; only here - and perhaps Ireland, can you celebrate the World Fairy Festival, and only here does Saturday Night Live mean telecasts of a paranormal nature.

Incidentally, although camp appears in its name, the word actually references an antiquated term used to indicate an annual gathering of religious groups. In actual fact, there are no camping facilities at Cassadaga. Most people opt for a nearby B&B or Holiday Inn. Die-hards go for the turn-of-the-century Cassadaga Hotel which has an air of Great Expectations about it, plenty of creaky floorboards and quite probably, things that go 'bump in the night'.

IF YOU GO:

The Camp is located just off I-4 between Orlando and Daytona Beach, approximately 30 to 45 minutes from the major attractions. Visit www.cassadaga.org for more information.

PHOTOS

1. The Cassadaga Hotel from the 1920s, where things still go bump in the night! Photo: Bill Vanderford
2.: Meditate in the Town Square in Cassadaga Photo: Chris McBeath
3. Street signs that you might not find on MapQuest Photo: Chris McBeath
4. Shopping at the Mall in Cassadaga Photo: Bill Vanderford

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